Inside the world's biggest shopping mall
There are two things I will freely admit to: I am lazy and I am a shopaholic. On arrival at the Dubai Mall in downtown Dubai, I realised these two traits would be accommodated rather well.
The Dubai Mall was built in 2008, covers 1.1 million square metres and holds an impressive 1200 stores. But if the thought of traipsing around the sprawling mall instilled fear and loathing, the feeling didn't last long. You can hire red or black open-top plush leather-seated buggies that carry up to five people.
My "cabbie" arrived in a luxury sleek black model bearing a most welcoming smile. He invited me to slide in beside him for a memorable ride that over the next few hours showcased beautiful visions of some of the most gorgeous stores ever built. Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Chanel and Armani were all present while the array of favourites gliding by felt like a personal fantasy had come true: Marks and Spencer, Zara, Sephora, Gap and BCBG Max Azria and so many more. Of course, with a word, I was able to stop at any selection.
I cruised through the denim district with its jeans stores and cool cafes while the 9000-square metre shoe district was too much, even for me. After a good gawk, I felt overwhelmed by the depth of offerings and moved on. By some miracle, no footwear was purchased.
Customer service was exceptional and the traditional environs of the Souk market district were interestingly distinctive. Surprisingly, despite having been told that about a million people visit the mall each week, the place felt spacious and not at all crowded.
But then, having toured large tracts of the mall, I realised not everyone goes to shop. There are other activities and wonders to experience.
There's Kidzania, an enormous children's play centre where youngsters can realise their dreams by role-playing whatever profession that comes to mind, such as firefighter, beautician, pharmacist, police officer and hairdresser. It's a long list.
There's the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo with a walk-through tunnel that features 33 million types of aquatic animal in the largest viewing panel on earth.
For many, the must-see is the adjoining Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, which stands at 163 storeys and has a sensational, strategic viewing terrace on the 124th floor. Be warned that weekend tickets can sell out up to two months in advance.
There are the ice-skaters on the Olympic-size ice rink gleefully feeling the cold whilst whirling around while an evening experience is watching the Dubai Fountain spraying water more than 150 metres into the air and setting off 6000 light and colour projectors.
As my smiling cabbie slowed down for the final time, I thanked him for the spin. Having been spoilt with such a unique ride, I know when I visit shopping centres in days, weeks and months to come, I will momentarily pine for the luxury of a chauffeur and buggy.
The writer travelled as a guest of Dubai Tourism and Qantas.